Foot and mouth reaches two new areas

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The Independent Online
Vets are investigating the source of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the Scottish Borders, 30 miles from the nearest previously confirmed outbreak. Vets are investigating the source of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the Scottish Borders, 30 miles from the nearest previously confirmed outbreak.

A second suspected case in the Peak District has triggered a preventative cull recommended by vets who fear it could devastate the area's world-famous moorland.

The two new cases, combined with 26 more on Friday, brings the national total to 1,086. A new mass grave being is planned near Okehampton on Dartmoor, in 18 clay-lined pits, to the dismay of residents in the area.

Many footpaths remain closed but the government is calling on local authorities to open them where feasible. The move has has been backed by Ben Gill, leader of the NFU, who says he understands the need to protect the wider rural economy.

It is believed the British tourist industry could lose £5m by September if tourists stay away and senior politicians are joining the tourist offensive. Several members of the government are spending the weekend visiting tourist sites around the country in a high-profile initiative to attract the visitors back.

Environment minister Beverley Hughes said: "There are local authorities concerned about the wider implications for the economy in their areas who are assessing the risks in their area.

"As well as containing and eradicating the disease we must also give equal attention to protecting the wider rural economy, including tourism, and think of the families whose livelihoods depends on it"

She said local authorities should consider opening paths and cited the example of Cheshire, which is producing colour-coded maps showing which paths are safe to use.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said the Scottish outbreak was at Bierhope, Hownam, near Jedburgh. An investigation to discover its source had been launched "as a matter of urgency".

She said: "We have a second confirmed case which is near Jedburgh. It is 30 miles away from the nearest confirmed outbreak. Because this is outwith the exclusion zone, the vets are examining the source of the outbreak."

The new case is the fourth confirmed outbreak in the Borders and takes the Scottish total to 133. It came on the day the Executive and SNP called for an acceleration in the reopening of the countryside.

Tourism minister Alasdair Morrison today said he wanted landowners to help ensure popular walks, such as the West Highland Way were opened as soon as possible, while the SNP accused the Executive of "muddle and confusion" over the access rules.

But earlier in the day, the Scottish Executive's rural affairs department had been held up as an example to Westminster by Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy. During a visit to Dumfries today, Mr Kennedy said the foot-and-mouth crisis had exposed the shortfalls of the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, while showing the effectiveness of Scotland's "joined-up approach" where agriculture, tourism and the rural economy are the responsibility of one department.

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